Michael Raiser is observant. When looking at new properties or sitting in cafes, real estate agent Douglas Eliman keeps his notebook ready, preparing to turn the absurdity of everyday situations into art. Raiser wants to say what we all think, and his meaningful, minimalist paintings began to adorn the walls of transcontinental eateries such as the Milk Bar in New York and Austin’s own Little Ola’s Biscuits. After his first solo show on Ani’s Day and Night, Reisor talks about inspiration, the imposter’s syndrome and the future of his art.
In 2020, you launched your artistic Instagram, @michaelonpaper. What was the incentive behind this?
I’ve always loved having a constant list of observations and things that I find funny. I grew up watching Seinfeld, and after my parents made me go to bed, I sat under the sheets and watched it on a small portable TV. I wanted to pair my observations with something visual, so I got some paint. I found it fun and soothing in a visually creative way, as if I were doing something of my own. In real estate I sell beautiful creations to other people. Whether it’s an architect, interior designer or builder, I’m just selling it. I reposted my art in my personal account with some courage. I wondered if people would take my real estate less seriously. But people said to themselves, “That’s funny.” I started getting similar answers and just kept doing it. I think what people admire is that you are.
Guide me through your creative process.
This is definitely a two-way process. It doesn’t happen that I sit down, have all the ready-made paints and just start thinking about what to put on paper. I write them down, put the image in parentheses, and sometimes, like in a comedy, I review it later to see if there’s anything else there.
How would you describe your art in your own words?
I would describe it as what we all think. Sometimes it’s really metaphorical, sometimes it’s super literal. Most pieces relate to the image itself in a very demanding way. I am inspired by many contemporary artists on this scale, in this freedom to do what I want. I rely on both the media of conceptual art and comedy. I pay a lot of attention to punctuation and the use of words to create a comedic moment.
Many former clients visited your first show, and some of your top buyers are well-known interior designers. Are there other ways in which real estate and art overlap for you?
Absolutely. Some of the pieces are directly influenced by real estate. Like the “Babe” series. These are direct quotes from my work, things I hear every day. This is greatly influenced by what I see and hear on the shows.
You enter a place like Little Ola and see your art on the wall. How do you feel about that?
Unreal, to be honest. It feels unreal. Going into it and seeing it in a frame makes me feel a completely different type of satisfaction and happiness than I have experienced in anything else. And that includes other creative quests that [caused] a lot of worry. This does not feel stressful to me. I feel like I’m doing what I love to do, and I feel so honored that someone else is involved.
I definitely see myself as an artist and I want to do that the most … I always joke that I would like my art to take over my life. I want to see real estate and art as parallel things in my life, both important parts of my identity. There was talk of ordering murals aimed at traffic. I want to continue making works in large format, whether it is a canvas or more sculptural pieces. And I also included photography to take it a little more than the conceptual.